Life Tips: How to be a Good Roommate


Most new college students worry about the adjustment to living with roommates. However, while learning how to be a good roommate may seem daunting at first, the cramped living quarters and communal mindset just might lead to some of the best years of your life!



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If you are just beginning your academic career, remember that all of your relationships should be rewarding and fulfilling; so, why not start with the person you live with? Try to understand the different backgrounds of people around you and practice clear communication. By better understanding your fellow students, including your roommate, you will develop meaningful relationships to take with you years after graduation.



The 6 Most Important “Roommate Agreements” to Discuss Right Away


1. Expectations


As roommates, you will likely be sharing a very small space for a long time, and both should know what to expect when it comes to things like having friends over, studying in the dorm room, cleanliness, and personal pet-peeves.

  • Set ground rules early on
  • Respect each others’ sleep and study habits
  • Make it clear what you expect and want
  • Talk about space
  • Expect conflict
  • Be flexible
  • Be consistent


One thing most roommates have in common is the amount of time you will spend doing nothing together. Being “alone” with another person is not an easy task, but communicating early on will help you establish a comfortable silence with your roommate, creating a productive environment to come home to at the end of a long day of studies.



2. Finances


Decide how you will split the rooming costs, bills, furniture, etc. Don’t wait for them to pile up! Discuss right away, and even write down which roommate will pay for certain items and the easiest way to split or transfer funds.


You and your roommate may even want to establish a rotating system for certain types of food or drink that you both share. Or, you might prefer that each roommate be responsible for certain items on an ongoing basis. These decisions are best discussed up front, because letting them build up could lead to unwanted conflict later in the semester.



3. Responsibilities


Issues like leaving the room a mess too often, making too much noise in the morning, or borrowing too often from your roommate can sometimes lead to frustrating situations. Address them as soon as you notice them. Many roommates decide from the start of the semester how to share things like cooking and cleaning responsibilities. Especially if you are living with several roommates, you might even consider hanging a calendar of shared responsibilities in the kitchen or a common space in the dorm.

  • Clean up after yourself
  • Be responsible about guests
  • Make the bills easy to divide and pay
  • Decide how to clean


If a “chore chart” is too difficult to follow, ask your roommates which chores they are more comfortable with than others. Offer to take responsibility over washing the floors after having friends over, for instance, and another roommate may offer to take the garbage out or take care of the dishes.



4. Shared Items


Are you lactose intolerant and only drink almond milk? Let your roommate know early on if you have items you are uncomfortable sharing. But prepare yourself by carefully choosing which items to bring with you to college. Your grandmother’s expensive jewelry, as an example, might be safer if left back home. Things like laundry detergent and toilet paper, on the other hand, can easily be shared between roommates using a rotating system when running low.


Tip: Ask your roommate before borrowing something that isn’t yours. If the answer is no, try to understand the reasoning and to adjust your behavior going forward.



5. Privacy


Everyone has a different approach to privacy, and you should try to understand the boundaries of the person you are living with. Talk about things like leaving the door open or closed during certain hours of the day and your schedules for the week so that you can plan around each other. Even if you and your roommate are not best friends, you should still be able to happily live together and respect each other’s privacy and personal space.

  • Respect each other’s privacy
  • Exchange emergency information with each other


Don’t let the small things build up. Though all roommate dynamics are different, you should be comfortable enough to put on headphones and go into your own space, and to communicate when something comes up that needs to be discussed. When you first start college, you may rely on your roommate more than you think. Exchanging emergency contact information early on will help you feel more comfortable, even if you don’t end up in an emergency situation.



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6. Roommate Relationship


Even if you are comfortable sharing both your living quarters and social life with your roommate, you might want to discuss these boundaries before the start of the semester. Because some roommates prefer to keep these relationships separate, it will be beneficial to be up front and ask yours what his or her ideal roommate relationship looks like.

  • Find different ways to bond with your roommate
  • Communicate your own expectation and listen to theirs
  • You don’t need to spend all your time together
  • You don’t have to be best friends
  • Compromise
  • Don’t wait — solve problems immediately


If you are planning to have friends over to the dorm, send a text a few hours earlier to let your roommate know. A respectable roommate will either appreciate the heads up or will ask you to change the plan if he or she needs the room to study that night, as an example. Be prepared for all responses when confronting your roommate with both large and small issues. The more you understand the person you are living with, the less surprised you will be when encountering opinions or reactions different from your own.



Make the Most of Your Roommate Experience

During college, it is important to share interests and hobbies with your roommate, but remember that most of your relationship will take place in the dorm itself. The more open you are to this person’s life choices, the happier the roommate relationship will be. Roommates should ask each other — even before the school year starts — about their upbringing, what they do for fun with friends, how and where they prefer to study, etc.


By understanding how your roommate thinks and making the effort to adapt when necessary, you are sure to be an amazing roommate during your college years! And, remember that college is a dynamic experience, and your living situation is only one part of it!